Building Strong Defensive Habits

The location of the basketball often dictates the ideal position for a player.  Many defensive basketball habits occur in response to the location and movement of the ball.

Vision Equals Awareness

Jumping to the ball or pressuring the ball cannot occur if one does not SEE THE BALL.  Two phrases used to teach man-to-man defense are “sink to see” and “head on a swivel”.   These phrases represent actions that enable a defender to see both his man and the ball.  Basketball players must always be aware and ready to make the next move.  If the next move is dictated by the ball, great players always have it in their sight.

5 Players Moving as 1

Jumping to the ball is an essential defensive habit.  The ball will tell a defender what stance he should be in (ball, deny, help) and how far from his man he should be.   Being in the correct position can help a team defend penetration plays, cutting and screening, and offensive rebounding. Moving on "air-time" means getting to your spot while the ball is in the air.  Closing-out occurs when a player transitions from one stance to another (especially to the ball).    A defensive unit that all moves as one, in response to the location and movement of the ball, is extremely effective and impressive to see.

Shot Selection

The winner of a game of basketball is often determined by the team that gets better shots.  Preventing good shots can occur through successfully pressuring the ball.  Applying pressure to the ball handler, passer, or shooter can lead to turnovers, deflections, or bad shot attempts.  Pressuring the ball can also impair vision and deter offensive execution.  Many teams use pressure to create tempo or to enduce fatigue.

Pressure Can Be Tricky

Sometimes an attempt to pressure can lead to a failure to contain the dribbler.  A direct line drive to the basket can lead to a layup or uncontested shot.  It is a good idea to look at the “athletic advantage” of the match-up when determining the amount and type of pressure desired.  Pressure can also be a factor in personal and team fouls.  On-the-ball defenders can be called for hand-checking.  Players should be aware of time, score, and fouls and adjust accordingly. While it is a players responsibility to both pressure and contain, sometimes defenders get beatDefensive rotation is an important team skill that should be developed to help counter penetration plays by the offense.

In Conlusion

Seeing the ball, jumping to the ball and pressuring the ball are habits that must be practiced daily.  They can be broken down (1 on 1, 2 on 2, 3 on 3, 4 on 4) or emphasized in scrimmage and game play.  The goal is to be able to combine all skills and properly execute them during a game.  Communication is a habit critical for successful team defense.


Next blog I will be discussing both offensive and defensive rebounding.